I enjoyed reading “The Machine Stops” this week. I liked how the main character,
Vashti, seemed like both a character the reader isn’t supposed to like (at least immediately) and
the most relatable character in the story. She seems a bit irritable, lazy, and heartless by our
standards, within the world of the story she is also practical, educated and a caring mother.
Though I’d like to believe I’d be more like Kuno, a rebellious, free thinker, if raised in the world
of the story, I’d likely be more hesitant, more complacent, and more like Vashti.
I also noticed how some parallels can be drawn between the Machine and today’s digital
technology. For example, no one knows how to operate the Machine, and today, almost everyone
owns a smartphone, but a much smaller number of people fully understand how it actually
works. The way people passively accept the Machine’s wills can be compared to a lot of things.
Almost anything could be snuck into a “Terms and Conditions” agreement and people would
accept it immediately without even knowing (myself included).
One thing I found particularly interesting was how the Machine became a sort of religion
for many people. A world that abolished religion for technology ended up circling around and
worshipping the technology as religion. I think this comments on both dependency on
technology, in that people became so reliant on the Machine it becomes a superior being, and the
human creation of religion, in that it suggests that other religions are created in a similar way, as
a manmade creation that rose above.
If this was longer I think I would still enjoy reading it. I like stories that set up a complex
new world with unique rules and standards, which I believe this story does well. However, since
it is a short story, it ends nearly after it finishes establishing it. It seems like the type of world
that would make a good setting for a successful dystopian future novel series today, along with
an accompanying movie adaptation, with someone like Chris Pine as Kuno.